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PHOTOS: Pawtucket, Rhode Island

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I had to go up to University Heights (strip mall hell) today to buy a new card for my digital camera. I decided, since it was so nice out, and the 99 bus to Pawtucket goes right by Staples, I would jump on the bus and take some photos in Pawtucket.

Some information about the city from the city's website, I'm sure most people are not familiar with Pawtucket.

General Information

Pawtucket is a city of 72,958, persons founded in 1671, at the strategic falls of the Blackstone River and the upper tidewaters of Narragansett Bay. It is a city with a special place in the industrial history of the United States. For it was here at the Slater Mill Historic Site that Samuel Slater successfully constructed and operated machines for spinning cotton yarn in 1793. Besides textiles, a variety of machines and iron working shops grew up alongside the textile industry.

The industrial development of Pawtucket continued to expand for the next century making it a highly developed and important manufacturing center. Although the textile industry is no longer dominant, a number of specialty textile operations still remain in Pawtucket, making products such as lace, non-woven, and elastic woven materials.. Pawtucket now has 300 diversified industries with the three largest being jewelry and silverware, metals and textiles.

The past decades have seen concerted efforts to diversity the economy of the State, and Pawtucket has participated in that undertaking. In the case of Pawtucket, major political reforms preceded extensive physical changes to the city. a home rule charter went into effect in 1954 providing a strong mayoral and unicameral City Council form of government, a clear organizational format, with professional officials and staff. Since 1956 the city has been a leader in community development programs, modernized and upgraded facilities and services, it has maintained consistent budgeting and fiscal methods, and instituted modern planning, programming, and management techniques.

The City of Pawtucket today includes: major residential areas with 30,000 housing units, an employment center with 300 industries and 1,000 commercial and service establishments, and convenient links to the other major metropolitan areas by Interstate 95. City development policies over the last twenty years have been targeted to 1) improve the quality of residential neighborhoods and the housing stock, through rehabilitation programs, 2) expand the employment opportunities through stabilizing manufacturing centers and the creation of new industrial opportunities, and 3) assistance to the commercial sector with rehabilitation loans and location incentive loans.

Source: Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC)


General Demographic Characteristics

Population: The population count for The City of Pawtucket as of April 1, 2000, was 72,958. This represented a 0.43% increase (314 persons) from the 1990 population of 72,644.

Rank: In 2000 Pawtucket ranks 4th in population among Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns.

Median Age: In 2000 the median age of the population in Pawtucket was 35.4.

Age Distribution: In 2000, 75.1% or 54,807 persons residing in Pawtucket were 18 years of age or older. 52,088 were 21 and over, 12,405 were 62 and over, and 10,828 were 65 and over.

Population Density: The 2000 population density of Pawtucket is 8,351 persons per square mile of land area. Pawtucket contains 8.74 square miles of land area (22,626,731 Sq. meters) (5,591.23 acres) and 0.26 square miles of water area (671,932 square meters) (5,591.23 acres).

Housing Units: The total number of housing units in the The City of Pawtucket as of April 1, 2000, was 31,819. This represented an increase of 204 units from the 31,615 housing units in 1990.

Of the 31,819 housing units 1,772 were vacant. 71 of the vacant units were for seasonal of recreational use.

Households: In 2000, there are 30,047 households in Pawtucket with an average size of 2.41 persons. Of these, 18,520 were family households with an average family size of 3.07 persons.


Total Population of One Race: 69,059

White: 55,004

Black of African American: 5,334

American Indian and Alaska Native: 217

Asian: 621

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 42

Some Other Race: 7,841

Total Population of two or More Races: 3,899

Hispanic or Latino: In 2000, 10,141 persons of Hispanic origin resided in Pawtucket. This represented 13.9% of the population. An increase of 4,930 or 94.6% from the 1980 Hispanic population of 5,211.

Source: Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) and 2000 U.S. Census

Waiting for the bus in Strip Mall Hell on North Main Street in Providence


North Main Street used to have the main street car line running between Providence and Pawtucket. Today the road is dominated by sprawl development and is extremely auto-centric. Just up the hill on Hope Street is a more urbanistically pleasing corridor between the two cities. I'm waiting for the 99 bus, it takes about 10 minutes to get from this part of Providence to the centre of Pawtucket.


The Blackstone River. Pawtucket is among many cities and towns in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that lays claim to the title "Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution." The Blackstone River powered the mills that led to Pawtucket's Industrial Revolution.



The Slater Mill was the first mill built in Pawtucket.



Pawtucket has a great highrise art deco city hall. The city's police and fire departments are also headquartered in this building.









Many of the city's mill buildings are being renovated into office, residential, and artist space. This is the backside of the mill seen in the previous photos. The sign is advertising riverside lofts.


The Pawtucket Armory is being rehabbed to become a community arts centre.




Interstate 95 runs through the centre of the city. Looking across 95 up Broadway here you can see into Massachusetts, Pawtucket lies right on the state line. The Northeast Corridor rail line also runs through the city. The city's rail station has been shuttered for years, there is now talk of reopening it. The rail station will be especially attractive to the city's growing artist community having access to both New York City and Boston, and will also be a draw for Boston bound commuters if the MBTAs Commuter Rail would stop at the reopened station.


Back to the Blackstone River.




Slater Mill from the Visitors Centre.


Part of the city library. The street is closed because a scene from a movie is being filled on the steps of the library.













You can see much of the downtown is pretty run down. The city has never really been a very wealthy city, mostly populated throughout it's history up until today by immigrant factory workers. Today the city is experiencing a bit of a renaissance with mill buildings being rehabilitated and a large artist community displaced from Providence by rising rents moving in. One unique problem the city is having that is holding back development is the proliferation of storefront churches. A state law does not allow the sale of liquor within X number of feet of a church, the sheer number of churches is making it difficult for restaurants to move into the downtown.

Pawtucket's large Cape Verdean population was featured in this month's National Geographic ZipUSA series. It is an interesting story, partially published on the magazine's website.

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As far as strip mall hell goes, even that part looks nice compared to most that I have seen. I think it is great you were able to take the bus to see all of this.

That section of strip mall hell is the section that is right up against Providence's historic and affluent East Side. The greenery and relatively well known and well kept stores quickly give way to a much more hellish environment the further north you go towards Pawtucket. In some areas some of the sprawl is actually vacant which is even more troubling. There is vague talk of tackling the rejuvination of this area, but the city has a lot on it's plate as far as urban renewal is concerned. The Providence portion of North Main Street was recently re-surfaced and sidewalks and crosswalks were improved. It is a decidely urban sprawl environment with adequate measures in place for pedestrians and frequent bus service, but it should be so much better, especially considering that this was the major street car line between Providence and Pawtucket and a lot of historic structures removed in the name of progress to give us what we have today.

The bus system in Rhode Island is excellent, especially considering the small size of Providence's metropolitan area. RIPTA only serves areas of the metropolitan area that are within the state of Rhode Island (there is a large part of the metro population in Massachusetts' Bristol County). But within Rhode Island it covers a large chunk of the state, providing interlinking service to all the urbanized areas of the state, and at a state-wide flat-rate of $1.25. From the transportation centre in Kennedy Plaza I can basically reach anyplace in the state.

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Great tour Cotuit! The DT still has alot of charactor so I could see it really taking off.

I will be making my yearly pilgramage to Pawtucket to see the Paw Sox this July when it's bobble-head doll night for the kids. We bring all my nieces and nephews and is dirt cheap compared with Fenway.

btw-I work with a guy who lives in Pawtucket and works on Boston's North Shore because the money saved on housing makes up for the commute!

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Great pics! I especially like the Pawtucket Armory Building. There is definately a lot of untapped potential downtown. Hopefully it will see some revitalization soon.

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Just read the article on Pawtucket in the NG. Fascinating article. It's always strange how immigrant groups congregate in places like that.

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For those who might not have seen it in the main section, I'd thought I'd add a "proof of concept" shot I tried tonight of the Pawtucket "skyline," such as it is...


- Garris

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